Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is 'Thunder Thighs' by Kimya Dawson.
Formerly one half of The Moldy Peaches, currently one half of The Uncluded, Kimya Dawson has been active in the music business in the least business-like manner since 1994. Aside from some turn-of-the-century Moldy Peach heat following the inclusion of Anyone Else But You on the soundtrack of 2007’s coming-of-age tale ‘Juno’, most of Dawson’s output has been delivered low-key.
Never one to conform - not even to non-conformist tags like ‘anti-folk’ and ‘folk-punk’ coined specifically for her - Dawson has always made music for herself, she just doesn’t mind us listening in every now and then. She’s even released an album made both for and with kids called ‘Alphabutt’. Her M.O is summed up by the song Zero or a Zillion where the simple refrain of ‘You can like what you like, and let them like what they like’ highlights the absolute irrelevance perceived popularity or success is to her. It’s just one of the nakedly un-selfconscious, comfortably cockle-warming tracks on 2011’s ‘Thunder Thighs’.
“I’m a little bit pop culture, a lot bit D.I.Y. I don’t know the definition of T.M.I”
The above line pretty much sums up ‘Thunder Thighs’. Industrial hip-hop beats, collaborator Aesop Rock rapping, swelling choirs, mumbling children singing, off-time home-made percussion and a few basic chords stabbed out on guitar all living in the ample space on this touching record, in some cases all on one simply structured song. It’s all underpinned by Dawson’s achingly beautiful, tragically funny lyrics. Death, grief, addiction, pregnancy, masturbation and loving your bike, it’s all in there.
On most records a song espousing the extravagant riches of knowledge held in your local library would be far too kitsch to bare - on ‘Thunder Thighs’ it makes you feel like thumbing a page rather than fingering a mouse is the way to go.
It’s the dichotomy of the innocence of songs like The Library next to the brutally honest fragility of tracks like Walk Like Thunder that makes ‘Thunder Thighs’ such a compelling record. Often our favourite music gives us so much, whether it inspires joy or articulates sadness you may struggle to release yourself. ‘Thunder Thighs’ covers that whole spectrum, but you’ve got to give it something too. Dawson’s lyrics are refreshingly bereft of shame or judgement, this record demands the same of you.
The frivolous, child-like quality of songs like Mare and the Bare, The Library and I Like My Bike are rubbed on the listener like a soothing balm after plunging the dark depths of opuses like Miami Advice, Same Shit/Complicated and the sprawling, slowly healing wound of Walk Like Thunder.
Coming in at over ten minutes long, hung on just a few simple guitar chords and piano notes, Walk Like Thunder tells the story of Dawson’s journey through recovery from alcohol abuse. It's so well written that it sucks you into a journey through all the obstacles of a life that doesn’t take your circumstances into account. Pitfalls and pinnacles. Those ten minutes disappear into a kind of transcendental, life affirming fog. You’ll emerge from its cinematic scenery a little emboldened against the pricks of life’s prickles.
As she freely admits, the phrase Too Much Information means nothing to Dawson and ‘Thunder Thighs’ is a far richer record for it. The poison of the darker side of life is unapologetically poured into your ears but so too is the antidote.
Incisively emotive, eye wateringly tragic and yet softly reassuring.